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A response to the question never asked

Fun with Foley

Again, Sound Design eclipses The Art of Editing! Plagued by audio/visual issues, my editing class this week limped along with snowy footage and unintentionally silent clips from Law and Order and Fatal Attraction. We did examine an interesting planned sequence from Doctor Zhivago involving an exterior crane shot following the action inside a building through a series of windows, but as the instructor noted, such shots involve equipment and expense typically beyond the means of independent filmmakers. I would be happy just to have a lighting kit!

In contrast, this week’s Sound Design class featured a practical, hands-on, and relatively low-budget activity: recording sounds for Foley in Washington Square Park. We ventured into the darkness in groups of 3-4, each group armed with a Sennheiser shotgun, windsock, field recorder, headphones, and flashlight. By the end of the 3-hour class, our noses were runny, our toes were numb, our batteries were dead… oh yes, and we had some great sound recordings, including several takes of a total stranger (who had approached us to ask what we were doing) exclaiming, “Boy, that’s great ginger ale!” That little gem, in case you were wondering, will be used for ADR (automated dialog replacement aka dubbing) in post-production.

We also recorded footsteps on asphalt, dirt, and brick; some chains rattling on a metal fence; a squeaky gate; a security barrier scraping across the ground; fizzing soda; mouth swishing; soda swallowing; paper bag crinkles; and a pen dragging across a metal mesh fence. I was fortunate to have group mates who were friendly, funny, and organized, so even though we nearly froze out there, we all had a good time, and I’m fairly confident that we got all the material we will need for our upcoming ProTools session next week.

Incidentally, if you’ve never walked around a public park listening through headphones to sounds picked by by a shotgun microphone, I highly recommend it. Through the power of technology, it’s like you have super hearing; every pebble roll, every leaf shudder, every far-off conversation in the mic’s line is magnified and amazingly distinct. I kept getting the urge to stop, stare off into space for a moment, say “Someone’s in trouble!” and leap into the sky.

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